I Actually Found a Facial Peel That Doesn't Leave My Sensitive Skin Red and Irritated

That doesn't mean it wasn't still painful though!

One of the hardest things about sensitive skin, (and yes, I realize there are greater hardships in life) is that it pretty much precludes you from certain treatments if you have other skin issues. As I’ve gotten older, hormonal acne became a reality, whereas when I was a teenager I seldom got more than one zit before my period. This is problematic because I am a human being with limited-to-no self-control whatsoever… and I pick at my skin. And that means I get hyperpigmentation and weird textural issues, which also drives me mad. It’s a vicious cycle. And since my skin is sensitive I couldn't really do anything to remedy the after-effects of my limited self-control and hormonal fluctuations. Ain’t life grand?

However, in the midst of a pretty nasty breakout last month, I visited Silver Mirror Facial bar in NYC for one of their signature facials. During the treatment though, my facialist told me that she was going to give me an antioxidant peel to help me with all of the issues facing my sensitive, angry skin — namely skin barrier health, pigmentation, acne and dryness. As opposed to a chemical peel, the antioxidant peel wasn’t going to render my olive-toned skin sensitive to sun damage and therefore hyperpigmentation/aging post treatment. But be warned, like most peels, this one still hurt like a MOFO.

I braced for impact (does knowing in advance make it better?) and the stinging upon application was definitely unpleasant. But I really did notice that my skin wasn’t red or irritated after the treatment, and my breakouts seemed calmer and calmer within 24 hours. Flash forward a few days and my skin was still super smooth and the post-acne pigmentation I normally see was less apparent.

So why was this peel so magical? Well, traditional chemical peels, which work by applying a chemical solution to the face, causing it to exfoliate and then peel off, can leave skin very sensitive, especially to the sun, and make your skin vulnerable to dryness. But an antioxidant peel, according to Matt Marone, one of the co-founders of Silver Mirror, is comprised of potent exfoliants and antioxidants (up to 3x more than AHAs) which work to exfoliate the skin and improve moisture retention, enhancing the plumpness, brightness and hydration of your skin.

In comparison to a chemical peel, Cindy Kim, other co-founder of Silver Mirror explains, “The antioxidant peel resurfaces the skin just as effectively but without the irritation and photosensitivity of traditional chemical peels. It actually works to restore and rejuvenate the skin’s barrier by increasing the skin’s hydration and moisture-retention capabilities. This means that skin is left smoother and calmer. It also does not leave you sun sensitive, which means less risk for sun damage and hyperpigmentation post-peel.”

This is key because if you have darker skin, already have skin sensitivities or suffer from rosacea, eczema and even psoriasis, a chemical peel might not have been in reach for you, but an antioxidant peel won’t exacerbate any vulnerabilities in your skin. But really, the best part is that unlike with a traditional chemical peel, antioxidant peels don’t have any downtime because they don’t cause inflammation. And given that none of us have downtime anyway, that’s pretty crucial.

But here’s the thing with antioxidant peels: they should be done routinely. Dr. Wexler a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology explains that antioxidant peels, unlike their chemical counterparts which are to be used as needed to repair existing skin damage, scarring etc., are a more proactive and preventative approach to taking care of your skin. “You should choose an antioxidant peel as part of an ongoing skincare regimen to keep your skin healthy,” says Wexler, “Especially if you are at risk for free radical exposure. This will prevent a need for more aggressive therapy to repair damage when it does occur.” And to remind you of possible venues of free radical exposure, here are just a few Dr. Wexler says have an impact on the quality of our skin: frequent air travel or commuting, outdoor activities, computer use, sun exposure, pollution and cigarette use.

Basically at some point in your everyday life, you are vulnerable to those pesky free-radicals. Thus, we could all benefit from an antioxidant peel, especially if preventing long-term skin damage is a priority— and given that I only have one face, it definitely is for me.

All the more reason to dabble with an antioxidant peel or two the next time you get a treatment, right? Which brings us to how you can go about it: antioxidant peels can be done at home or stronger ones can be done by a facialist— so depending on how committed you are to adding another level of skin maintenance, there are definitely options for you.

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